Chargers WR Mike Williams showing explosiveness at OTAs

COSTA MESA, Calif. -- Los Angeles Chargers defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is preaching patience when it comes to first-round selection safety Derwin James.

The Florida State product worked with the second unit at strong safety during the first week of organized team activities. Bradley said that's by design, giving James a better chance to pick up the defense at a slower pace.

"He's just learning right now," Bradley said. "Quite a bit of the package is in, and we just want to bring him along and see where he's at.

"For us, one of the top objectives in seeing these young guys is to see them play fast, see what they can do. Sometimes, you put them in different situations and it slows them down. Right now, we just want to see, 'Can they play fast? Can they understand the base principles of our defense?' And then build from there."

Someone benefiting from James playing with the second unit is second-year pro Rayshawn Jenkins. Selected in the fourth round last year out of Miami, Jenkins saw limited reps last year in his rookie season defensively, but now is getting a chance to work at free safety with the starters.

Bradley said that Jenkins has good instincts and range, along with impressive play speed. However, Jenkins did get beat deep over the top on the first play of 11-on-11 in practice on Tuesday open to reporters.

"We're gonna take a strong look at that," Bradley said about Jenkins at free safety. "We saw him play mostly strong [safety] last year. But during some practice reps, he played some free safety.

"We saw some flashes of what he could do. It became very intriguing for us. 'Hey, he's playing really well. He made some plays for us. Is this a way that he can get on the field faster?' First-play awareness, that'll be a great lesson for him"

Let's take a look at three questions from this week's mailbag:

@eric_d_williams: I wrote earlier this month about how Mike Williams is more focused going into his second year after an injury-plagued rookie season.

So far in practices open to reporters, we've seen a more confident and explosive Williams on the football field.

That confidence should result in more targets from Philip Rivers to the Clemson product with Hunter Henry out for the season after suffering a knee injury this week. The Chargers need more big bodies to command the ball in the middle of the field, and Williams could develop into a reliable red zone and third-down target in-between the numbers for Rivers.

ESPN Fantasy writer Mike Clay projects 38 catches for 457 yards and four touchdowns on 66 targets for Williams now that Henry is out for the year, and I believe that's realistic if he can stay healthy.

"I see a lot of potential," said receiver Keenan Allen, when asked about Williams. "Last year, he had a lot of potential as well, but I could tell he put in a little bit more work this offseason. I think he's ready to go.

"[Last year] He wasn't sure about all the plays. This year, he acts like he's been in the playbook. When he runs routes, he's on depth. Today (Tuesday), he was more physical when he was getting pressed. He looked good."

@eric.d.williams: No word yet on if or when the Chargers will bring in potential tight end prospects to fill the void left by Henry's injury.

We talked to Chargers general manager Tom Telesco about the possibility of bringing back Antonio Gates this week. As usual, Telesco played things close to the vest.

"We've got four-plus months before we open up, so we'll look at all the options that we have out there, and see where the roads head after that," Telesco said.

I do know the Chargers have had conversations about a potential Gates return. Sean McGrath, Jeff Cumberland and John Phillips are players that have intimate knowledge of the Bolts' offense who remain available in free agency.

The Chargers also could look to a veteran like Julius Thomas to fill the void.

But for now, I believe Telesco and the Chargers will take the extra time to get a good assessment of tight ends already on the roster, including veteran Virgil Green, along with Sean Culkin, Braedon Bowman, Cole Hunt and Ben Johnson.

@eric_d_williams: The Chargers have an abundance of talent at cornerback and competition should be grueling to make the roster at that position this year.

As you mention, starters Trevor Williams and Casey Hayward are back, along with slot defender Desmond King. Jason Verrett has not been cleared to practice fully as he works his way back from knee surgery, but will be out there competing soon.

Michael Davis, Craig Mager and Jeff Richards were either on the active roster or the practice squad last year. And I have not mentioned undrafted rookies Tony Brown and Brandon Facyson, who looked good during rookie minicamp.

If Verrett is healthy he starts, which mean Williams and King will battle it out for the slot defender spot. Whatever happens in training camp, having an abundance of depth at cornerback is a good problem for the Chargers.

"There's great competition amongst them," Bradley said. "Every play, you have to be on it. With competition, it just keeps elevating the level of play.

"As a coach, that's what you want on a team. On a unit like ours, you want competition. That's what you appreciate most about this group. They compete, but it's not against each other. It's unique. It's more of a competition that's within themselves. But they constantly challenge each other."